Larry Nance Jr. Talks Trade, The Rise Of Versatility And What He's Looking Forward To About Living In Portland
In between preparing to move his family from Cleveland to Portland in advance of the start of training camp, Larry Nance Jr., who the Trail Blazers acquired via a three-team trade, took some time to discuss leaving the city where he grew up for the Pacific Northwest, the decision to seek a trade, the rise of versatile role players and how he feels he fits into that group, joining a new team that also has a new coach, his somewhat unlikely path to the NBA and some of the off-the-court things he looking forward to once he arrives in Portland...
First off, have you made the move to Portland yet or are you back in Cleveland?
Larry Nance Jr.: So I’m back in Cleveland right now, just kind of packing up and getting everything ready to move. But I’ll be out there in two or three days, pretty quick. My wife and our four month old daughter and our three dogs, my little family is coming out.
What where your initial thoughts on joining the Trail Blazers and what did you think of the team as an opponent that maybe you liked?
Nance Jr.: So look, leaving Cleveland was obviously very bittersweet for me. I love (Cleveland), I’m from here, my dad played here, there’s so much history with my family here. But the chance, the opportunity came to come to Portland and it was impossible to pass up on. It’s a team I’ve been rooting for in the playoffs for a while now, just feel like it’s impossible to root against a guy like Dame and CJ, seems like they have great guys on the roster. I felt it was an opportunity where I really have a chance to step in and make a difference. This is a team that’s been on the edge of something special for a while now and the higher ups in the organization deemed me as someone that could help them get higher. I’m thrilled at the opportunity and I’m really looking forward to taking it. Getting a chance to play with players of this caliber doesn’t come around too often.
In your farewell letter to the fans in Cleveland you talked about the trade being a collaborative process, which I imagine might have been hard having such an affinity for the city and the organization.
Nance Jr.: Very much so. I love it (in Cleveland). I love the weather, I love the people, in the summer time we’re going to live here. I love this area, I want my daughter to go to the same high school I went to. I could live here forever but you only get a short amount of time in the NBA, so where the Cavs organization is at right now is a place of building, retooling and I’m a player that’s a little more geared to competing now and providing the versatility the playoffs require. So coming to that decision was definitely not easy but at the same time, how it ended, I couldn’t have scripted a better ending. The relationships I still have with the Cavs is going to be great, that’s always going to be there. But with that being said, I’m extremely, extremely excited to get to show on the big stage how capable I am to help this team.
I’m sure that wanting to have success and to have the opportunity to succeed has always been there, but was there anything that changed to where you felt like you had to look for a win-now situation?
Nance Jr.: It kind of hit me over the past few years watching the playoffs and watching the guys that really step up and shine in the playoffs, guys that you can’t take off the court. I fit that mold to a ’T.’ I’m sitting there watching PJ Tucker become a cult hero in Milwaukee and Bobby Portis, even a guy like Aaron Gordon or Torrey Craig kind of shinning in their roles and that type of stuff in the playoffs where they’re a versatile defender, can switch, knock down shots, can do a little bit of everything. I consider myself among that mold, I’m ready to show. It’s Dame and CJ’s team and I’m not here to throw my hat in that ring, I’m here to make their job easier, make their lives easier. I want to try to make it so Dame doesn’t have to take 35-foot shots, he can take 30-foot shots, you know what I mean? Anything to make those guys’ jobs easier and I know for a fact that I can certainly do that.
It seems like the league has trended toward players with your size, versatility and skillset, guys who have size but agility, can leap and play the passing lanes. A lot of the guys you just mentioned also fit that mold, so do you feel like the league is set up for players like yourself to have success more so than previously?
Nance Jr.: Absolutely, and that’s kind of what raised my eyebrows as to wanting to go to a contender and see if I can make a big difference. Looking around, guys that I consider myself in the same mold with are at a premium. They are hard to come by. I feel like I can guard the three, four and five positions, I can play the three, four, five on offense. And defensively, you can really put me where ever you like and I’ll be just fine. The jack-of-all-trades skillset is something I’m very proud of having and I think the fans of the Blazers are going to see that there was a lot that was overlooked these past few years in Cleveland. The guys on the teams that have a little worse record don’t get recognized as much, so I’m excited to show the fact that I’m one of those guys too and can be a heck of an asset for this team going forward.
Going into a situation with a new coaching staff, as is the case in Portland this season, seems like it might be a good opportunity for someone like yourself to define your role.
Nance Jr.: Absolutely. A new coaching staff is not anything that is new to me. I’ve been in Cleveland for three years and had four coaches, so it’s not anything that’s new to me. I got to sit down a little bit with Chauncey and I’m just really excited to work with a guy of his reputation and IQ. Everybody was a fan of his when he played but even now. It’s almost a fresh start and a reset for everybody on the team. That’s why I’m excited to come in at this time and hopefully establish myself as a key cog in this new coaching staff’s eyes.
Even though you had a father who played in the NBA, you ended up going to college at Wyoming, not exactly a hotbed in college basketball. You don’t seem like the kind of guy who expected that you were going to get things just because you were Larry Nance's kid.
Nance Jr.: Honestly, I just had a conversation with one of our coaches here in Cleveland the other day like, I genuinely don’t feel like I was supposed to be in the NBA. Everybody’s path is different and when I left high school I was a 6-5 center. Went out to Wyoming and I’m sure anybody that understands genetics could have told you that I was going to get taller than that, but I certainly didn’t. Grew to 6-8 out there, couldn’t really jump in high school, got to jump in college. I only really had two offers coming out of high school, so it’s definitely been an up and down road for me, but that’s why I’m so excited for this opportunity. It’s kind of because I feel like I’m playing with house money. I’m thankful everyday that I get to do this job I love and play in the greatest league in sports, in my opinion. So now I get a chance to actually in in that league, there’s not a whole lot that I wouldn’t do to push my situation forward because I already feel lucky enough to be here, might as well see how far we can take this thing.
You’re back in Cleveland now but I saw you were out in Portland after the trade, stopped off at Voodoo Donuts. Is there anything you’re looking forward to once you are back in Portland with a bit more time to explore?
Nance Jr.: This answer could take a second. So, yes. So when I posted Voodoo to my story on Instagram, I got ROASTED because apparently Blue Star is supposed to be the go-to and yada yada yada. But when I came out the first time I took my little brother, I took my little sister, my mom came with, so I took them to the spot that I knew that we would always come to before games and it was a good experience for them. But I will try Blue Star, so everybody can get off my case!
While I’m not glad that had to happen to you, it is a good introduction into what Portlanders are like.
Nance Jr.: And I appreciate it, I truly do. I’ll be better next time, gosh. Blue Star, okay.
And to your point, when you go to Paris, you visit the Eiffel Tower!
Nance Jr.: That’s what I’m saying! Exactly.
Now second, my wife and I love us some food, so I’ve heard the Portland food scene is incredible. I got to go to a few spots while we were out there but I’m excited about exploring that more.
I adore soccer. I love soccer, I wouldn’t say more, but as much as I love basketball. I wake up at 7:30 a.m. to watch Chelsea games here, I’m a diehard Chelsea fan, so I’m going to have to transform into a Timbers fan and go to those games. I LOVE soccer and they’ve got pretty good supporters, I’ve heard.
Another thing I’m excited for, being in Ohio and going to Portland is going to be a very welcomed change in terms of everyone around me. I can’t wait. I’ve been working hard here to change and kind of educate a lot of people within our community and within Cleveland. There’s an equal rights and equality bill that I’m going to Zoom call into to give testimony when they hear the bill up in Columbus for the hearings and everything. I’m at the forefront of all of that, of all things progressive in terms of my views, so me and my wife are both very thrilled to be going to Portland and be around more like-minded, progressive individuals.